I am a person of routine. I need it and love it. As a little girl from the age of three years old until about five years old, I woke up early every morning. I put on my striped purple pants with my ever-so-clashing purple polka dot shirt. I would reach into a a drawer and pull up my favorite “Donut Man” tape (If you didn’t know this, the 90’s Christian children’s VHS tapes were the best ever). I would skip to my favorite song and just jump and twirl. Singing at the top of my lungs until I woke the whole house up. This was my life. I was carelessly a child.
I was seven years old the first time I remember being in a youth worship environment. My parents were youth pastors for fifteen years, so I have vivid childhood memories of students being marked during worship. But this memory was a little different, because it became a seed planted in a child that was unaware. Unaware that it would eventually burn within me and I would fight to see it take shape.
I made my way down to the front of the stage where all the youth were jumping and screaming. And as liberating as it looked, even as a child, I felt this unbearable weight around my ankles. I couldn’t move even if I wanted to. I remember looking around thinking, “If I jump right now everyone will think I am such a little kid”. So I didn’t.
As the years went by I was involved in worship, from children’s church to youth group – I was a worshiper. But I could never shake the inner dialogue of hoping that no one thought I was too undignified. For whatever reason freedom to me felt childish.
The Fight for Freedom
This narrative followed me into my teen years. I loved Jesus with all of my heart. And worship always burned within me. I would engage just as long as it meant I didn’t do anything that was “crazy”. I found comfort in complacency and security in the safety of being “safe.” After leading worship in my high school’s chapel service and at church, I was convinced my next chapter as a youth pastor would no longer hold the card of leading worship. And honestly, I was thrilled.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved it but I felt way more comfortable speaking then I did singing. It was easier to do the thing I knew I could do on my own.
But the call will always call.
I went to bible college in Oklahoma and began playing basketball and focused on my youth ministry classes. My coach found out I used to lead worship somehow (I certainly didn’t tell her but somehow she knew). She asked if I would lead the team during devotionals in worship and I always said no.
One afternoon we were praying and seeking God as a team when I felt a song drop into my heart. I felt the nudge of the Father saying, “Go for it.”, so I responded with a “no”, Ha! And again He invited, and again I declined. It happened one more time and as soon as the response left my mind, my roommate started singing the exact song at the exact part. His kind yet marking reply was “I wanted to use you but I will always use the willing.” Wow.
The truth is, even after this moment, countless prophetic words and encounters; my fear of man outweighed the invitation from The Father for years. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my first baby girl, Kaedynce Grace, that I finally said, “yes”.
My husband and I started a youth ministry at a thriving church plant. We found an amazing guy, who had a heart for young people and believed in this crazy idea that we can actually see radical encounters in students during worship. I didn’t tell him my history but I told Him if he wanted, I would help with the worship team.
We had this idea, it was such a small team with not a lot of instruments. But we both had a passion for a “new sound.” This is the best way I could describe it, what would happen if you stepped into a church service that only spoke and sang in French and all you knew was English? You might get something out of it but not to the extent you would if it was in your language.
I think often times we see this dynamic play out with students in worship. They want to engage but don’t know how. So we began “remixing” worship songs. We would sing the same songs as we would in our main service but with a bass drop or two. I remember the first service we did this, the look on the students faces in awe that worship music sounded a lot like the thing they just listened to on the way to church. We met them were they were at, we spoke their language. I believe the enemies greatest fear for this generation is the fear of a free generation.
John 4:24 – “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
I want to see a generation so freed from of the fear of man and opinions of others that they go after the move of God – holding nothing back. But the reality is that they need to see it first. Leaders, this starts with you.
In that position, I found that the students would always engage a couple levels below the people that were leading. So if I clapped, some of them would. If I jumped, a handful would follow. However, it is human nature to be the least crazy in the room.
I realized that I must hold the “crazy card”, and that realization became my mandate. I would have to be the one to express freedom or they never would.
This was and is something I am fighting for. We must model how to worship, being fully lead by the Spirit – in full authenticity. Authenticity is a “vibey” thing right now. “I just want to be my truest self.”
This is a biblical principle, but it can often be taken out of context. Our relationship with God and our identity as Sons and Daughters, must not be misrepresented as us having to find ourselves. Because that is not what God intended. We are drawn in to find Jesus and out of that security, we find ourselves. No one who knows who they were meant to be, wants to be anyone else. Comparison dies in that place of authenticity.
I know now that the battle between my thoughts and my expression in worship is far bigger than me. I know that if I want to see students take the next step into freedom, I must first take the leap. I can’t lead someone somewhere I myself won’t go. Youth worship isn’t practice ground for leaders who want to make it to the main stage. Youth worship is a place to see a generation take back the very thing Jesus died for: freedom. We have to go after it.